A Guide to Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Rheumatoid Arthritis

As a type of inflammatory disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) impacts around 1.5 million Americans. In the most advanced stage of the disease, RA prevents the movement of joints, as well as causes constant swelling and considerable pain.

The pain and swelling can become intense enough to prevent a victim of the disease from holding down a job, especially one that requires physical labor. Because it is considered an autoimmune disease, RA has the potential to affect more than one body system

A rheumatoid arthritis disability can wreak havoc on family finances. Not only are the medical expenses associated with the disease high, but the inability to work can also plunge your finances into a deep hole that makes it nearly impossible to make a full recovery.

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and the disease has prevented you from working, you have the right to seek compensation by filing a Social Security disability claim.

Rheumatoid Arthritis a Disability?

Like most diseases, RA goes through different stages that produce progressively worse symptoms. The most advanced stage of the disease is when most patients suffer from a disability. Living with rheumatoid arthritis in the later stage of development might qualify you for Social Security disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes a medical guide called the Blue Book that lists the eligible diseases for Social Security disability benefits. Rheumatoid arthritis lists under section 14.0 of the Blue Book under the category of inflammatory arthritis. However, it is not enough for you to receive a diagnosis for RA. You have to suffer from the severity of symptoms the medical guide lists as well.

According to the standards created by the SSA, you qualify for financial assistance if RA forces you to miss work for 12 consecutive months. Loss of monthly income must be more than the amount established by the SSA, which in 2021 is $1,310.

Can You Still Work with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The short answer is yes, you can still work with rheumatoid arthritis. It is all about the severity of your symptoms. Milder cases of RA typically do not cause joint pain and swelling. You might be able to lift, pull, and carry objects if your job requires physical labor.

However, when RH develops into the most advanced stage, it can be difficult to get out of a chair or walk over to the office water cooler. You might need an assistive device such as a cane or walker just to get to and from your car. Even with an assistive device, late-stage development can make RA a disability that prevents you from holding down any type of job.

Rheumatoid arthritis patients often have to deal with the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. Some of the adverse side effects of anti-inflammatory prescription medications include nausea,  fatigue, and dizziness.

 

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How to Medically Qualify for Disability with RA

Since living with rheumatoid arthritis can prevent you from making a living, how do you demonstrate to the SSA that the disease has hurt you financially? The answer is submitting enough evidence that convinces the team of examiners from the SSA that RA has made a significant negative impact on your life.

First, you have to prove that you missed work for 12 consecutive months. Timekeeping records submitted by your employer, as well as copies of your monthly bank statements, can establish your time away from the job. Second, you must submit persuasive medical documentation to qualify for a disability with rheumatoid arthritis.

Medical documentation comes in the form of copies of your diagnostic tests. The results of x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) provide the team of examiners of the SSA with a diagnosis of RA. You also need to submit a description of your treatments and your physician’s plan to rehabilitate the symptoms of the disease.

One of the most important pieces of medical evidence is a statement written by your doctor that explains the prognosis for you to make a full recovery from RA.

How to Qualify for Disability with RA Via a Medical Vocational Allowance

A Medical vocational allowance represents a comprehensive review of your medical records to determine whether you can work. If the SSA determines that you can hold down a job, the federal agency determines which types of jobs make the most sense for you while you deal with the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

The issuance of a medical vocational allowance requires you to undergo a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment. Your age, education, and job history also contribute to the decision as to whether to grant you a medical vocational allowance.

How Much Does Disability Pay for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

While adjusting for an increase in the cost of living, the SSA establishes a maximum monthly amount of money that applicants can receive for Social Security disability assistance. As of 2021, the maximum amount of money you can receive for Social Security disability benefits is $3,148.

The severity of your symptoms does not determine your monthly disability payments. The SSA calculates your monthly payments based on your lifetime covered earnings before you received a diagnosis for severe rheumatoid arthritis. Covered earnings represent the amount of money your employer or employers took out of your paycheck to cover the funding obligations for Social Security.

Your monthly Social Security disability payments reflect your average covered earnings over a designated period. The monthly payment is referred to as your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). To determine what your AIME should be, use the convenient benefits calculator that is available on the SSA website.

Contact a Social Security Disability Attorney

Because the SSA denies a majority of disability claims, you should consider hiring a Social Security lawyer to help you receive financial assistance.

A Social Security attorney will monitor the progress of your disability claim to ensure it moves through the SSA review system in a timely manner. A lawyer also helps you gather and organize the medical evidence you need to submit a convincing disability claim.

Schedule a free case evaluation with a Social Security attorney today to learn whether you can get disability benefits for rheumatoid arthritis.